J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace), Riva degli Schiavoni and Pietà from the Bacino, Venice, with Boats and Figures 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), Riva degli Schiavoni and Pietà from the Bacino, Venice, with Boats and Figures 1840
D32154
Turner Bequest CCCXVI 17
Pencil, watercolour and gouache on white wove paper, 243 x 304 mm
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘[?Green]’ towards bottom right
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom left
Stamped in black ‘CCCXVI 17’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The view is from the Bacino, about level with the Zecca (Mint), looking north-east to the corner of the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) facing the Piazzetta and the Molo. Beyond are the New Prisons, and the next prominent building is the Palazzo Dandolo (Hotel Danieli), now flanked by higher blocks; later buildings further east along the waterfront now largely mask the domed church of San Zaccaria from this direction.1 Towards the right is the then incomplete classical façade of the church of Santa Maria della Pietà.
Ian Warrell has informally linked the present watercolour with The Doge’s Palace and the Piazzetta (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin)2 looking west-south-west past the palace, this time in the right foreground and silhouetted against the dazzle of the setting sun, towards the entrance of the Grand Canal. He has noted of the present work: ‘Like its companion, this watercolour is ablaze with the golden light of late afternoon, with shadows already obscuring the lower levels of the buildings as the sun catches only their highest western flanks.’3 Paying close attention to Turner’s treatment of the subject, in 1857 John Ruskin had described it: ‘Careless, but rich in subject, and showing attention to little things which escape artists who make more elaborate drawings: the exact look of the foreshortened lion on the pillar [at the far left], for instance, and the depression of the two last windows of the façade of the Ducal Palace.’4
The Dublin sheet is more consistently finished, whereas here the detail and handling become looser towards the right. Nevertheless, Lindsay Stainton has called it ‘among the most sumptuously coloured and densely worked’ of the Venice subjects remaining in the Turner Bequest,5 and Warrell has compared it in this respect with a contemporary colour study of the Arsenale (Tate D32164; Turner Bequest CCXVI 27).6 Robert Upstone observed that its ‘sumptuous golden colouring, crowded boats and figures, and the hazy, ethereal quality ... has something in common with many of the oils of Venice that Turner made in the 1840s’7 (see the Introduction to the tour).
At the bottom right is what seems to be a single word in pencil, apparently overwriting a first attempt. Having initially suggested ‘lagoon’ as an alternative,8 Warrell has plausibly read it as ‘Green’, referring to the strong colour Turner sometimes used for the Venetian waters;9 compare for example Tate D32147 and D32171 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 10, 34) in the present grouping, the latter showing a similar prospect from further out, where the colour appears in a purer form than here. Stainton had suggested rather that this ‘illegible pencil inscription may (like similar notes made on some of his Swiss studies) suggest that this was a subject he intended to develop ... for sale to a particular patron’.10 Warrell has discussed the possibilities of such direct commissions, for which documentary evidence is lacking, and of the likelihood of less formal sales through Turner’s dealer in later years, Thomas Griffith.11
As well as producing many original watercolour views of Venice, the widely travelled watercolourist Hercules Brabazon Brabazon (1821–1906) was in the habit of making sympathetic if often rather loose transcriptions from earlier artists he admired. He copied several examples from Turner’s 1840 visit in the Bequest, including this one;12 see also under Tate D32126, D32156, D32207, D32209, D32216 (Turner Bequest CCCXV 10, CCCXVI 19, CCCXVII 22, 24, 31).
1
See Warrell 2003, p.216.
2
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.463 no.1356, reproduced.
3
Warrell 2003, p.216.
4
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.210.
5
Stainton 1985, p.58.
6
See Warrell 1995, p.96.
7
Upstone 1993, p.35.
8
Warrell 1995, p.96.
9
Warrell 2003, p.216.
10
Stainton 1985, p.58.
11
See Warrell 1995, p.96.
12
See Hercules Brabazon (1821–1906), exhibition catalogue, Chris Beetles, London 1989, reproduced in colour p.[16], p.[45] no.16, as ‘Souvenir of Turner’.
Technical notes:
There is extensive scratching out of architectural highlights and along the Molo below the Doge’s Palace. Although Lindsay Stainton noted the use of ‘pen and red, brown and purple ink’,1 Ian Warrell has described ‘details added using a pen dipped in watercolour’; 2 whether Turner executed elements in ink or watercolour with a pen or a fine brush is often a moot point.
This is one of numerous 1840 Venice works Ian Warrell has noted as on sheets of ‘white paper produced [under the name] Charles Ansell,3 each measuring around 24 x 30 cm, several watermarked with the date “1828”’:4 Tate D32138–D32139, D32141–D32143, D32145–D32147, D32154–D32163, D32167–D32168, D32170–D32177, D35980, D36190 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 1, 2, 4–6, 8–10, 17–26, 30, 31, 33–40, CCCLXIV 137, 332). Warrell has also observed that The Doge’s Palace and Piazzetta, Venice (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin)5 and Venice: The New Moon (currently untraced)6 ‘may belong to this group’.7
1
Stainton 1985, p.58; see also Upstone 1993, p.35.
2
Warrell 2003, p.273.
3
Albeit Peter Bower, Turner’s Later Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1820–1851, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, p.81, notes that the Muggeridge family had taken over after 1820, still using the ‘C Ansell’ watermark.
4
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 2) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
5
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.463 no.1356, reproduced.
6
Ibid., p.464 no.1365.
7
Warrell 2003, p.259.
Verso:
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘55’ top left, and ‘12’ bottom left, upside down; stamped in black ‘CCCXVI – 17’ over Turner Bequest monogram below centre.

Matthew Imms
July 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), Riva degli Schiavoni and Pietà from the Bacino, Venice, with Boats and Figures 1840 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, July 2018, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2019, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-the-palazzo-ducale-doges-palace-riva-degli-schiavoni-and-r1196989, accessed 17 February 2020.